Fiat unveils its thrilling 500 Abarth—complete with the legendary designer’s scorpion logo—onto our quiet roadways
When Fiat unveiled its lovely little 500 sports coupe just over a year ago in the U.S. marketplace, the timing seemed perfect. Well-made, a hoot to drive, and with a distinctive look in a marketplace plagued by sameness, we—and the Turin, Italy-based manufacturer were expecting robust sales in a slightly invigorated economy. That hasn’t happened, so Fiat (a majority stakeholder in Chrysler) decided that brand diversity would generate additional enthusiasm. In a very rapid time frame, they released a convertible and sports version of the 500, the latter bearing the name of one of the most storied sports car enthusiasts of all time, Carlo Abarth. The Vienna born designer contributed numerous sport tuning kits to the Fiat line from 1948 until the early 70s, and the signature Abarth scorpion logo remains a testament to Carlo’s astrological sign. There’s simply nothing like this in the auto market today. The thing is nothing less than a slightly tamed Tasmanian Devil, capable of squealing its tires even low third-year, turning with almost frightening immediacy and precision, and simply eking more hair-raising terror and fun out of $30,000 than anything this size on the road today. Equipped with a turbocharged 160hp version of the 500’s standard 101-hp, 1.4-liter four-cylinder and matched with a beefed-up version of the stock five speed manual transmission, the result is simple and immediately satisfying. Likewise, the interior is almost angry in its blackon- black, hard-edged minimalism, but that’s only appropriate given the lineage, here.
The Abarth is scheduled for release in mid-March, but in all likelihood models won’t start arriving here until early or mid summer.